Archives For Brent Pittman

Constanza wallet

Is it time to clean out your Costanza Wallet? Credit shareski

I’ve been a fan of the trifold wallet since I started carrying one back as a wee lad.

The trifold is nothing special, it’s just what I grew up and what is comfortable to me…that is until it becomes so fat that I can’t have it in my pocket.

“This is an organizer, a secretary, and a friend.”- George Costanza


That makes me begin to wonder: What is in my wallet? In homage of Spring Cleaning. It’s time to clean out the ole’ wallet. For you voyeurs, this should be fun.

A Catalogue of What’s in My Wallet

I have to make this wallet thinner. I’ll put a Trash to those items I’m taking out.

Inside the folds

  • $40 in mostly one dollar bills that I have saved for garage sale season.
  • $1.26 left over for money to spend on my wife. (We budget cash to spend on each other each money)
  • My new address listed on sticky note.

Left Fold

  • ING relic debit card that will soon be replaced I’m sure [RIP ING Direct...].
  • XX bank debit card
  • Insurance card
  • Best Buy Rewards Card Trash
  • REI Member Card
  • Safeway Club card Trash
  • Old insurance card Trash
  • Costco Card- I can trash this when our membership expires.

Middle Fold

  • Drivers License
  • Picture of my wife
  • Picture of my son as baby
  • Stash of old receipts
  • 4 OTC business cards

Right Fold

  • Starbucks Gold card–yes I like coffee.
  • Business Debit card
  • Old McDonald’s Gift Card Trash
  • Panera Bread card
  • HSA debit card
  • AAA card

What’s missing?

  • Current insurance card-doh!
  • My lunch money, mad money, and couples spending money for the new month. Time to check YNAB to see how much to withdraw.

Sorry, nothing too exciting or revealing. I was able to ditch a few items, but most are essentials.

I’ll need to investigate an app that stores my reward card numbers. Any suggestions?

Now it’s your turn to Spring Clean your wallet or pocketbook.

What’s in your wallet? What could/should you take out. 

Helpful Articles on Cleaning Your Wallet

Inflation. These words might give you the chills or just a blank stare, depending on your age. I was born in the late 70’s and don’t remember ever having to deal with high inflation rates. High inflation rates are harmful to the purchasing power of the individual consumer. If there is a 5% annual inflation rate, a $1.00 cup of coffee (I wish) would cost $1.05 the following year.

Inflation:

“The rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising, and, subsequently, purchasing power is falling. Central banks attempt to stop severe inflation, along with severe deflation, in an attempt to keep the excessive growth of prices to a minimum.”- Investopedia

I believe my time of experiencing low inflation rates will be over soon and a new generation will once again learn how to deal with a high inflationary atmosphere.

Brief History of Inflation in the U.S. and Canada (for those who weren’t there)

In the 1970s the United States and Canada experienced a time of high inflation. It was characterized by gas shortages, high mortgage rates, rising prices, high unemployment, and social change.

Why? It wasn’t just high oil prices, but a poor monetary policy including increasing the national debt and lowering interest rates lead by Nixon and Fed Chairman Arthur Burns (The Great Inflation of the 1970s).

“OPEC got all the credit for what the U.S. had mainly done to itself.” WSJ (1986) via Investopedia

Measures of Inflation (nerd section)

There are different ways to measure inflation: Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Producer Price Index (PPI), Consumer Price Index (CPI), Employment Cost Index (ECI), and even more. The most common measures are generally GDP and CPI, though there is debate amongst economists as to which measure is the best indicator for inflation.

CPI Index from 1914-2012 - These numbers are slightly higher than GDP.

Inflation by GDP: (U.S. and Canada) 

High inflation not only effects the U.S., but the whole world market.

Prepare for High Inflation

1. Fix Your Rates- If you have variable interest rates on your credit cards, mortgages, student loans, or private loans–NOW is the time to transfer to fixed interest rates. In a high interest economy variable rates will keep rising, thus increasing your interest and lengthening your time in debt.

2. Cash Reserves- Keep a good stash of cash of cash as your buying power will decrease with inflation. Start with an emergency fund and then grow from there. Check out this cool Inflation Calculator to see how your buying power changes. For fun plug in the numbers for the last car you bought.

3. Buy a House- Interest rates for mortgages are currently at historic rates and will rise quickly. Houses will increase in value as inflation rises, so in a sense you ride the wave of inflation with your largest asset. High interest rates could lock you out of the market, so plan on purchasing sooner than later if you are on the fence.

4. Consider rental property (if you are out of debt and financially stable) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) for protection against inflation.

5. Invest in I-Bonds or TIPS- Having these in your mix of investments will help protect your portfolio from high inflation. You can cut out the middleman and buy I-bonds directly from Treasury Direct. TIPS can be bought through a variety of ways. It is a good idea to compare TIPS and I-Bonds to see which bond is right for you and always ask your financial advisor if this fits into your overall investing plans.

6. Invest in Non-Perishable Bulk Items- This is an interesting concept of buying items like toilet paper and razors that will increase in price with inflation. Stock up today and you’ll save money down the road. Learn more about this alternative investing method here.

More Inflation Articles:

No economists can be certain when inflation will hit, the duration of the inflationary period, or how high the rates will get. It is a good idea to prepare for higher inflation by reducing debt and incorporating some or all of the above tips for preparing for high interest rates.
It seems likely (in my opinion) that high inflation will again be a financial issue to be dealt with based on similar circumstances in the 1970s and recent reports: Bloomberg, and high inflation already in India and China.

 

Do you think you will face high inflation during your lifetime? How are you preparing for high inflation?

 

Photo Credit  SurvivalWoman (Creative Commons)
Kid with Magnifying Glass

Are you still curious? Credit woodleywonderworks

My son recently discovered the joy of asking why. Now every day is filled with “Why dad?” questions.

I find it interesting that as early as age 2 we learn to ask why.  Asking why is part of the developmental process and how children discover the world.

It is also proof that their brains are working and children are trying to figure out how this crazy world works.

Somehow along the way many of us stop asking why and just go through the daily mechanics of life.

Do you still ask why?

Do you still question the world around us? Don’t grow up. Keep asking why.

Cool Why Articles Around the Web

Here are some cool articles I found that ask why–yes many have to do with money, but hey that’s the gist of this blog right?

Money

Why is Debt the Enemy? Enemy of Debt

Why You Should Avoid Penny Stocks- Free From Broke

3 Reasons Why a Big Income Tax is a Terrible Thing- Bible Money Matters

Why is my Paycheck Smaller?- Money Life and More

Blogging

Why you Need a Platform to Succeed- Michael Hyatt

Why You’re Terrified to Write a Guest Post and How to Beat the Fear- Problogger

Why You Should be Writing at Night- Jeff Goins

The Most Common Word at My House- An article about Why

Health and Fitness

Why Health Plays a Role in Your Finances- Planting Money Seeds

Why Your Health is Your Most Important Asset- J.D. Roth

Why You Need Health Insurance- Young Adult Money

5 Why Articles I’ve Written

I try to ask why a lot.

Why Pay Off Student Loans Early? 

Why I Switched Mutual Fund Companies

Why Going the Dentist is Like Creating Your First Budget

Why I’m Still Blogging After 250 Articles

Why Boring Index Funds Can Make You Rich

I hope you continue to engage the world around you and keep asking why. 

What are you curious about now? Add your Why question to the comments below. 

Spring is upon us. The days are longer. The beaches and mountains are calling.

Cough, Cough. What is all that dust around my house? Seems the long days of being in doors has created quite a mess. Good thing someone invented a thing called spring cleaning.

Origins of Spring Cleaning

There is no definitive answer, but many ancient cultures celebrate spring cleaning.

In preparation for Passover, the Jewish culture scours the house to rid the house of leaved bread. In China there is also a cleaning at the end of the Chinese New Year to get rid of any bad luck and misfortune. Persians (modern Iran) also have a similar practice for Nowruz called Khouneh Tekouni literally meaning “shaking the house”.

No matter what the origin is. It’s a great idea to rid the house of dust, clutter, cob webs, and start the spring off on the right foot. It leaves more time to play outside too!

While you are dusting the shelves, why not give your finances a bit of spring cleaning too?

Spring Cleaning for Your Finances

These are a few tips on how to spring clean your finances:

1. Reclaim Your Desk- If you’re going to be organized with money, start with your desk and/or area you pay bills. Time to file that stack of “important” papers and shred others.

So just what do you need to keep and what to shred? Keep tax info for the past 3-7 years just in case you get audited.  See the IRS website for more details and guidelines.

There is no need to keep your paper bank and retirement statements, you’re most recent one should do. If you want to keep them, then pull out the ole’ scanner. This would be a perfect time to sign up for electronic statements and go “paperless” See The Motley Fool for more tips on your mound of paperwork.

2. Go Digital- Sign up for electronic statements, automate your monthly reoccurring bills like utilities, and store your statements digitally in the cloud (Dropbox or Evernote) or backup with an external hard drive. If you haven’t backed up your computer lately, then stop and do it now.

3. Check Your (Free) Credit Reports- - Time to check your credit report for errors or mistakes. Click this for your FREE Credit report. Check to make sure any debt you have is really your debt and that those monkeys in the cubicles posted your checks on time. This is free yearly and don’t give out any credit card info or sign up for any monitoring services.

4. Update Your Will- Any changes in the past year? Moved states? Then you need a state specific will. Had kids? Who’s going to take care of them? Update or create your will. Made a ton of money? Then you might consider setting up a trust and need to consult an estate planner.

5. Get the Best Rates- Are you getting the best rates on your insurance, checking and savings accounts, mortgage (Great time to refinance!) credit cards, etc? Get some quotes.

6. Update Your Beneficiaries- What’s this? It’s who is going to get your assets if you die. Check to make sure everything is in agreement with your updated will. IRA, 401K (403b), Life Insurance, Investments…etc.

7. Whatever Else- We all have our personal financial cobwebs that need to be cleaned. Stop procrastinating. Be an adult. Do it. And enjoy your spring.

Any spring cleaning tips? Start your financial spring cleaning this weekend. 

Photo Credit  hans s (Creative Commons)

Guarding this pot of gold is tough during the "New Normal" economy.

Guarding this pot of gold is tough during the “New Normal” economy.

This economy is tough, even on Leprechauns. Think it’s all about playing tricks, rainbows, and pots of gold?

Think again.

Even though that pot of gold is worth more than it was a few years ago, Leprechauns face a harsh economic landscape that is causing many Leprechauns to adapt to new changes.

Maybe Leprechauns aren’t so lucky after all.

7 Harsh Economic Changes for Leprechauns

1. Their hole in a tree is no longer considered a “residence” by the IRS. Leprechauns are no longer allowed to deduct hole mortgages from their taxes.

2. The Pot O’ Gold Corp instituted new changes in their work at home policy. Now all Leprechauns will have to redirect their rainbows and bring their pots of gold to the corporate office.

3. The “End of the Rainbow” is now considered to be an Off shore account (OFC). Leprechauns have 30 days to notify the IRS of any pots of gold that may be held at the “End of the Rainbow”.

4. Leprechauns are looking for alternative non-sugary foods (besides Lucky Charms) since Mayor Bloomberg has sugary cereals on his next list of foods to ban in NYC.

5. As shoemakers made trade, Leprechauns are having a tough job finding local jobs since all shoes are made in China.

6. Leprechauns are having a tough time getting job interviews since recruiters think they are hipsters. Think about– Green jeans, fedoras, beards, and funky shoes.

7. The Social Security retirement age of Leprechauns has been raised from 1,200 years to 1,300 years as part of Ireland’s Austerity Plan.

More St. Patrick’s Day Resources

Create Your Own Luck of the Irish- Solid financial advice inspired by St. Patrick’s Day.

5 Low Cost St. Patrick’s Day Activities for Kids   Good ideas by Living on the Cheap.

17 Ways to Serve Potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day- Save money with these cheap recipe ideas you’ve never heard of by WiseBread.

How to Make Green Beer- A DIY guide to green beer making.

Official National Leprechaun Museum- Yes, it really does exists.

Have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day!